The Disability Ministries Task Force is happy to make available to you a PDF Version of the Susquehanna LINK. You can download the OCR PDF by clicking the following:
The following is a plain text version of our Article from the March 2019, LINK:
Susquehanna Conference’s New Ministry: The Disability Ministries Task Force
By: Rev. Rebecca L. Holland, Disability Ministries (Chair)
My name is Rebecca and I was born with a complicated medical condition that caused me to lose a great deal of my eyesight. When I was several months old, a well-meaning doctor told my mother, “Just take that child home and love her. She is not going to amount to anything. She is going to be blind.”
That doctor was wrong. I was a child of God and had therefore already “amounted to something.” All children of God have sacred worth.
Disability in the Church & the World
Despite the fact that all people have sacred worth, the statistics regarding disability and the church are troubling:
- People with disabilities are significantly less likely to attend a church service.
- In fact, people with disabilities are more likely to have NEVER attended a church service.
- For many reasons, parents of children with disabilities are less likely to bring their children to church than parents of children without disabilities.
- The majority of disabilities are invisible. It is impossible to tell who has a disability simply by the way a person looks.
There is an entire group of people within our communities whose spiritual needs are not being met.
Our Call to Serve “the Least of These”
I was raised in the church and was confirmed as a member of Ridge St. United Methodist Church in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Even with my low vision, I went on to graduate from Millersville University with a Bachelor in the Science of English Education and from Wesley Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity.
In the United States, 70% of adults who are blind are unemployed. That is part of the reason that I couldn’t help but weep with joy last year when I was ordained as an elder at annual conference. At last, I had been empowered to live out the call that God had placed upon my life.
It has been a long and difficult journey, but today I am the happiest that I have ever been. I would not be where I am today if it were not for the love of Christ and the support of my church family. I want other people with disabilities to be able to experience the joy that God’s love brings.
I am deeply troubled by the fact that many people with disabilities do not have a church family. God has taken my weakness and made it a strength. Because of my own struggle, I have a special empathy for other people with disabilities. I believe that God has placed a very special call upon my life to serve “the least of these (Matthew 25:40).”
The Disability Ministries Task Force
On January 18, 2019 the Susquehanna Conference made a huge stride in working to serve the needs of people with disabilities by establishing the Disability Ministries Task Force. I was deeply honored to be appointed the chair of the group.
The goal of Disability Ministries is to lead the Susquehanna Conference in creating a culture where people with disabilities are fully included in all aspects of worship, leadership, ministry, and mission. Disability Ministries will work to advocate for the needs of people with disabilities, empower people with disabilities, and educate members of churches and communities about issues related to disabilities and disability awareness.
Disability Ministries of the Susquehanna Conference is comprised of both clergy and laity, many of whom have disabilities themselves or loved ones who have disabilities. Many members of Disability Ministries also have extensive experience working with and empowering people with disabilities in both the church and the community.
I am Rev. Rebecca L. (Torres) Holland and I am a visually impaired clergywoman serving at Christ Community United Methodist Church in the Altoona District. I am deeply honored to chair the group and serve alongside: Rev. Mitch Galloway, Rev. Craig Gommer, Rev. James C. House, Rev. Jennett Wertz, Rev. Robert Stump, Rev. Carol Gathagan, Pastor Julie Rosensteel, Mrs. Abigail Kane, Mrs. Pamela Harker, Mrs. Wendy Albright, Mr. Jerry Post, and Mr. Jeffery D. Holland.
The structure of Disability Ministries mirrors that of the Mental Health Task Force (Rev. Evelyn Madison, Chair) and falls under the umbrella of Inclusion and Connectional Ministries. We also work closely with Child Advocacy (Rev. Ed Zeiders, Chair) in order to advocate for the needs of children in the Susquehanna Conference with disabilities.
Our group is closely affiliated with The DisAbility Ministries Committee (UMCDMC.org), which serves the entire United Methodist Church, and the United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities (UMDisabledMinisters.org).
Disability Awareness Sunday
Currently, Disability Ministries of the Susquehanna Conference has a motion before the 2019 Annual Conference in order to ask for affirmation the work that we have been doing since January. The motion also calls for Annual Conference to establish the Second Sunday in October as Disability Awareness Sunday. According to the Book of Discipline, each Annual Conference is to establish a Special Sunday in honor of Disability Awareness.
Find Out More: DisabilityUMC.org
We are still looking for resource persons and laity to serve as members of our team. For more information about Disability Ministries, or to subscribe to our newsletter, visit our website at DisabilityUMC.org. Our blog is updated regularly with news related to disability awareness and the disability community. Our website also includes a list of recommended books and resources.
You can also find us on Facebook by searching SUSUMCDisability. Please take a moment to “like” our page!